This is going to be a bold statement, but I need to say it anyways. Decisions are right up there with filing my taxes. Yes, I say this as an individual who bought and returned approximately 6 laptops when picking one and who nearly signed two leases when hunting for an apartment in Windsor. As a tangent, this was after seeing 21 apartments in 42 hours, as far as my father could tell the tour was approximately 24 hours too long and could have ended with the first apartment we saw that was livable, not 3 days after the lease was signed as I continued to peruse Kijiji for apartments. So maybe I am not qualified to make such a statement, perhaps I am just a poor decision maker and the fault is entirely my own. I swear the fault is not entirely my own though. I blame the internet and the culture we have created surrounding choices and their rude cousins, decisions.
I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance this summer and it really struck a chord with something I have been attempting to articulate for months – there are too many choices and because there are so many choices we are plagued by a belief that there has to be a better model. There’s always something better, so we are perpetually disappointed with what we have. Choices and decisions are a luxury, one we should be grateful for, but instead we have allowed them to become the bane of our existence.
We live in a world essentially without limits. If you are willing to search hard enough and/or pay enough, you can have anything. Our world is rapidly advancing, new technologies are being invented every day, and things exist today that my grandparents only dreamed of (and in some cases never dreamed of, but hey – progress is creating something people didn’t know they needed). The cellphone I hold in my hand is relatively new – it just came out this calendar year, and yet already there are phones with better cameras, faster processors, or a screen that drops off the edge so my icons don’t get in the way. With the knowledge that newer and better phones are constantly being released it’s probably a good thing my boyfriend bought mine for my birthday so that I didn’t have to face the sea of options and drive him nuts for 3 weeks trying to pick one.
This not so tiny device, which only properly fits in the pockets of two pairs of my pants, can tell me not only singles in my area, it tells me what my friends are up to, it tells me about the wedding that girl I like to stalk on Facebook went to (don’t lie we all have at least one of those). It can also tell me the reviews for the 20 nearest restaurants, what movies are playing at the 3 nearest theaters (and buy the tickets), and answer just about any question I throw at it with 2.4 million hits in 0.25 second or less. Surprisingly all this info doesn’t make anything easier. Even a restaurant review must be taken with a grain of salt (see what I did there? ;)). In psychology we talk about sampling bias, in this case, maybe only people who really like reviewing things or who REALLY hated the service (they may have been rude customers too) reviewed the restaurant. So we’re not getting a clear picture of reality. We’re just getting a lot more opinions involved in our decisions.
The internet makes me more aware of the world around me (you know, when I am not using it to look up cats and pigmy goat videos) and it makes me aware of the 2.4 million ways I could sort out whatever problem I brought to it; but it also makes me aware of how poorly my plan was and how fabulous some other people’s lives are. Hello, Facebook, I’m looking at you.
I got into grad school. Six years from now I should be walking out with a PhD in clinical psychology, but I mean there are other schools – what if this wasn’t the ideal option? Let’s be real – with my boyfriend now 8 hours away from me, ideal is not how I would describe Windsor. Really, “GRAD SCHOOL! Yay! With a supervisor available in my desired research area!! Double yay!” That’s where my head should have been. Instead it was wandering the halls of Queen’s libraries and gazing at the Ottawa skyline.
I hem and haw over a lot of “good decisions;” afraid there would be a better one just around the corner. This culture of comparison leads to a lot of progress to be sure, but it also breeds a lot of disappointment and a generally non-committal generation. We are all waiting on the next best thing so why would we settle on what’s best right now. Even worse is when we know there is a better choice out there but it is inaccessible to us. Like the newer, shinier faster, cell phone that we can’t have because we are locked into a contract. Or your best friend’s boyfriend, who is totally swoon worthy. Or the vacation spot you saw but in no way can afford.
I am here to let you in on a little secret though. In social psychology we talked about the principles of decision making and one of the most fascinating things I learned (aside from how to make someone do what you want – but that’s classified information) is that people become polarized with their decisions. Once we make a decision we perceive to be final and irrevocable, we start to accept our decision, and then we start to become more confident that we made the right decision. For a cool TED talk on this topic click here.
So the lesson is simple. Accept that you can never have access to every option, be it due to time constraints, financial situation, geographic location, point in your career, or even point in your cup of coffee. So at the end of the day – pick something you like and accept that. Pick something you like and get off the internet.